Swimming at night? No thank you!
I don’t need to freak out over every string of algae wrapping around parts of my body—triggering a heart attack as I mistake it for a tentacle of some creature coming to feast on swimmers at night.
I often rebel against myself until I embrace and pursue the very thing I initially so rigidly rejected. Ridiculous, you suggest? Kind of. Does it work like a charm? You bet!
Last month, when the water in the bay started to cool, my friend Robin invited me to join the annual nighttime Halloween swim. “Sure!” a sound answer I gave while thoughts of algae strangling me to death flooded my imagination. I was convinced I just signed my life away to sea monsters.
It was October 31st and a group of about 20 of us gathered on the bleachers to watch the remains of sunset and enjoy some sweet treats to distract ourselves from what was coming. Everyone started to undress, taking off their winter coats and hats while ignoring the obvious—it was cold.
As the full moon rose, only a couple of street lamps helped guide us as we were about to jump in.
My inaugural step into the sea was met with resistance, as I tripped over a pile of rocks hiding in the darkness. Not exactly the graceful way I wished to enter the water, but the real horror happened just moments later as I landed right in the middle of a whole swirl of algae. I gasped, acknowledging the frigid water as I dove further from the shore releasing myself from the hands of those slimy strings embracing my body.
I did my best to find the same rhythm and normalcy of my morning swims; it was impossible. It was just too different, too unique and a bit spooky as I couldn't see much.
The ocean was a bit rougher than I liked, but we don’t choose the conditions in open water. We just come in and embrace whatever it has in store for us that day. The ocean doesn’t adjust, we do. Those are the rules. So I kept going.
As we kept swimming, in-between breaths I briefly checked with my friend Robin and before I knew it, I thumped head-first on into the buoy that served as the halfway marker of our swim route. I felt like an idiot crashing into this bright thing twice my size that—even in the dark—was quite visible.
After that clash, I lost track of Robin and kept swimming back on my own. I saw only a few neon lights ahead of me—light sticks wrapped around the heads of other swimmers.
Then all of a sudden I felt a bump—a weird stumbling sensation on my legs and belly. It was a bit scary, so I screamed and panicked for a moment as I turned around for the swimmer I was sure I swam over. I looked around but there was nobody there…
I panicked even more, as I realized I was bumped by a seal!
There are many of them in the bay and even though they are cute at distance—popping their heads out of the water during the day—at night it’s a different story. I wasn’t that far from the shore at that point and was ready to get out. The wavy bay and the unknown of the dark waters beneath frightened me all of a sudden. My swim speed on the way back was worthy of a gold medal.
I overcame one of my fears while I made a list of new ones, however the cold sensation of the chilly bay was the least of my concerns that night.
It was a true Halloween with darkness, spookiness, mystery and a scream.